In part I of the interview, Spanish activist and writer, David Marty, discusses the current state of Spain’s 15M movement with Indyreader’s Stephen Roblin. Here, Roblin asks Marty about the new revolutionary organization, International Organization for a Participatory Society (IOPS).
Part II. A New Revolutionary Organization
Explain to our readers what IOPS is, when it formed, what its goals are, etc.
IOPS was launched only recently. It stands for International Organization for a Participatory Society (this is a temporary name that awaits final vote). It is an organization that aims at achieving social change on a local as well as global level. Its goals are to gain reforms and ultimately to achieve a revolutionary change of our current institutions: political decision-making bodies, markets, racist and sexist institutions, production, etc. It is sort of a social network of the left, if you will, but aimed at federating all these individuals and movements that seek just that type of social change. IOPS was formed just a few weeks ago, but it was an idea that has been maturing for the past two years. We had had informal talks around an idea of forming a kind of a ‘Facebook of the left’ initially, but quickly the project became something bigger, the enthusiasm and the potential of it snowballed as we were developing the idea. I must say, however, that I only joined the project recently, but I do remember when people were talking about it back in 2010.
The first step was to form a committee made of roughly 50 people from all over the globe whose mission would be to build a proposal around this idea. The text was drafted and voted on by this small interim committee along with its name. Once the contours of the projects were drawn, we got some talented people to build the homepage (mainly our friend Jason Chrysostomou from PPS-UK). Expectations were high and the result was anything but disappointing. It is simple, well designed, full of possibilities and very empowering for users, even for a first-time admin like myself. The homepage was officially launched at the end of March but with the temporary limitation that it would only be available in English. But today, May 1st 2012, only within a month of its existence, IOPS has inaugurated 9 new languages: French, Spanish, German, Italian, Swedish, Esperanto, Mandarin, Portuguese, Japanese. And Catalan, Arabic and Greek are underway. The work that was achieved in this very short span of time was only possible because many women and men contributed very spontaneously with translation work, and all under some great time-saving coordination.
Currently, our next step is to increase membership in our respective countries, for which of course languages was crucial. The medium-term goal is to proceed to a vote two years from now in order to validate the founding text, the name, and eventually dissolve the interim committee.
IOPS is described as a “bottom-up, international organization, based on self-managing interconnected national branches and local chapters.” How does the IOPS website (launched in late March) accommodate this structure?
Quite simply I must say. The IOPS homepage structure follows that of a world map with countries, regions, cities and neighborhoods, all according to the subdivisions that make most sense for each country. At each level the website recognizes one administrator that runs the homepage for the local chapter. Thanks to the instructional videos, anyone can in fact upload material, and customize the aspect of the website. This was crucial in my case as I had never done it before. I thought it was really easy. Then each new member can act, publish, communicate at each and every level of IOPS. For instance, I am a member of IOPS Madrid, which itself is part of IOPS Spain and then ultimately IOPS World. I might want to post a blog in Spanish for my fellow members in Madrid to read, say, asking them to join us on Friday evening for a social event for IOPS Madrid, or maybe I want to talk to folks from all over the world about what goes on in Spain during the 15M protests…IOPS’ homepage allows all that in a way that is very easy to map.
The most important feature of this structure, without which there would be no organization at all, is that there is no central committee at the international nor national level. Each IOPS branch is run by its regional constituencies. IOPS Spain is composed of IOPS Madrid, Barcelona, Valencia, Bilbao, etc. Then IOPS Barcelona is composed of only its own neighborhood assemblies, etc. It is quite straightforward and simple, and “bottom-up” means just that.
Therefore, each branch of IOPS can do as they please so long it is not racist, sexist, and they don’t violate self-management. The website merely provides us a tool to organize, build projects, communicate, proceed to votations, raise funds, exchange information, skills, papers, books, videos, courses, updates on who is doing what, etc. Its potential is great.
How can IOPS—its mission, vision, organizational tools, and so—be of any use to the local struggles you are involved in?
Well, again, rather than explaining hypothetically how IOPS could help local struggles to gain in strength, we can look around and find examples of how a big movement can help on local issues. Let’s take the example of the PAH (Plataforma de los Afectados por la Hipoteca) movement, an activist group that takes the defense of people evicted from their homes. In the case of Spain, this would be a good example as home evictions were treated pretty much at the local level. The main problem for these activists was to gain enough attention to organize direct action on the day of the eviction. Though PAH had existed long before last year’s 15M movement, it was only after the ‘indignados’ movements managed to raise awareness of these issues that enough people showed up on people’s eviction-day and managed to effectively postpone evictions, making it harder for the government and the media to ignore this phenomenon. Thanks to this coverage, the PAH was now able to address the root of the problem of home evictions and was strong enough to even lobby on behalf of people evicted from their homes, to a point where even the Conservative party during their November campaign had to include it in their program (whether they meant it or not is another story). Well, all the issues that we care deeply about, even those that seem to be restricted to our neighborhoods, our towns or even our countries, are in fact rooted at a much deeper level and only a national or international movement can address it properly. If problems were treated only locally, one could wonder whether there ever had been any feminist movement in the twentieth century. How could anyone understand what a patriarchal society is when looking only at individual histories, at local history? If there ever was a feminist movement that fought and won anything it was thanks to the fact that women organized beyond their local chapters, beyond their social class, beyond their religion, beyond marriage and family, beyond the boundaries of their countries. If we make the mistake of thinking that local issues are local, we may not get to the root of the problem and and obtain only ‘cosmetic’ changes.